Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery….
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem is, at least in part, an attempt to relate a dream he had while under the influence of laudanum, an opioid medicine he took for an illness—or so he says. He’d fallen asleep while reading about the travels of Marco Polo, who had visited the palace grounds of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, in Mongolia. Xanadu, a European attempt to pronounce Shang-tu, has come to represent “an idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place” (Merriam-Webster online dictionary).
Xanadu—I do not picture a land where Olivia Newton-John roller skates, but rather something more like Marco Polo’s description of the Mongolian palace and grounds. Apparently, Mr. K.K. had a summer palace made of lacquered bamboo that could be assembled wherever he chose on the palace grounds; he resided there in the summer to keep cool. Cool. My personal Xanadu would definitely have a breezy, movable summer palace, and plenty of breezy summer weather in which to enjoy the magical gardens. I’ll also keep the river that bursts forth in a fountain and disappears into mysterious caves. But I’m a modern woman, and—as imaginary empress—require other comforts in my pleasure dome.
Let’s see–I’ll need
- Some extra fountains: coffee hot springs, two wine fountains (one red, one white), and a fountain of lemon-flavored sparkling water for rehydrating.
- The royal snack tent, with a colorful flags to fly when the next tasty treat is ready for my royal enjoyment.
- Royal musicians, to entertain me as I stroll, doze, or dine.
- A royal masseur, to work out any royal kinks. The empress isn’t as young as she once was, you know.
- A royal Jacuzzi, set up under a weeping willow tree, to screen my royal pulchritude from any passing visitors.
- And don’t forget the royal library-mobile, to give me access to an ever-changing selection of books at every corner of my palace grounds. I’ll need a little bell to summon the book wagon whenever I get bored.
- A supply of fascinating, varied courtiers to keep me company, and then vamoose when I grow weary of company.
- Various tutors to refine my royal magnificence. I’ll need dance tutor, an art tutor, a lute instructor, a martial arts sensei, a riding master, and so on. Lessons amuse me.
What about you? As long as we’re constructing pleasure domes, what will you include in yours?